New program, a national pilot, will prepare school principals and administrators for today’s changing education landscape
The University of Indianapolis is one of only two institutions nationwide selected by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to pilot a new master’s degree program that could change the way principals and administrators are prepared to manage the current and future challenges facing U.S. schools. The Woodrow Wilson MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership is intended to close achievement gaps not only between America’s lowest- and highest-performing schools, but between top-performing U.S. schools and their counterparts around the world. It is among the first of its kind and intended as a national model. Aimed at aspiring principals and superintendents, the program blends education and business coursework with intensive clinical experience in schools, corporations, and nonprofit organizations, as well as visits to innovative schools abroad.
Charting new territory
UIndy’s 13-month program was designed collaboratively by faculty from the School of Business and School of Education, drawing from best practices in both disciplines to craft a groundbreaking approach that helps educational leaders navigate the new landscape of school choice and competition. The team was led by Associate Professor of Finance Rachel Smith and Associate Professor of Teacher Education John Somers, in consultation with colleagues and local school administrators. The Foundation is providing $3 million over three years for the launch. “UIndy has been a leader in collaborating across disciplines to create new programs that are relevant to community needs, and this effort from our schools of business and education is a prime example,” notes President Robert Manuel. “Our strong relationships with local schools and districts will allow us to provide the immersive field experiences that are so vital to this program. We are grateful to the Foundation for recognizing these abilities and partnering with us to build leadership capacity for Indiana schools.” Fellowship candidates will be education professionals nominated by their school districts or charter school leaders. In essence, those school systems will partner with participating universities to establish internal pipelines and cultivate new leaders. Each Fellow selected will receive a $50,000 stipend, which in the UIndy program covers full tuition, technology, some living expenses, and international travel. In exchange, each Fellow agrees to serve in a leadership role in a school or district for at least three years, with Foundation-supported mentoring.
Providing solutions to problems
The Fellowship in Education Leadership program addresses twin problems in American education: On the one hand, well-resourced U.S. schools still rank below schools in countries such as Finland and Singapore on measures of student achievement. On the other hand, too many of the nation’s high-need urban and rural schools still fall too far below domestic benchmarks for student achievement. The national director of the program, LeAnn Buntrock, previously headed the acclaimed education leadership program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, now based at the Foundation’s Princeton, N.J., office. Buntrock oversees the Indianapolis and Milwaukee programs as well as several expansion efforts currently under consideration. “What makes the this Fellowship distinctive is that it really focuses on transformational leadership—different techniques for spotting and diagnosing issues, solving problems, motivating others to go beyond the status quo,” Buntrock said. “It’s also very unusual for leadership programs around the country to partner with school districts and education organizations to identify relevant projects that will give candidates actual in-school experiences. The fact that UIndy already does this will help us demonstrate new ways to prepare school leaders.”
Preparing to meet the challenges
The University of Indianapolis will partner with a variety of area school districts and charter schools to create clinical placements—that is, in-school learning arrangements—and mentoring opportunities for the Fellows. The first class of 15 Fellows will begin the program this summer. The candidates the program will produce, say local officials, are the kind of leaders their schools need. “Now more than ever, educational leaders are being called upon to use a set of skills they may never have had the opportunity to learn or exercise,” says Superintendent Margaret Hoernemann of Avon Community School Corp. “For Avon Schools to be given the opportunity to collaborate with UIndy, to ‘grow our own’ leaders who are prepared to confront the changing educational environment, is exciting.” The MBA in Education Leadership draws on the Foundation’s experience with its state Teaching Fellowship, which recruits very able candidates to teach math and science in high-need schools, and also works to transform teacher education. UIndy was one of four Indiana universities selected to pilot the Teaching Fellowship, which since its 2009 debut has expanded to 23 universities in five states.
Applications to the MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership are available by nomination only, with nominations and applications for the first class now open. To learn more about the program, visit http://woodrow.org/fellowships/ww-ed-mba.